Autumn is the time of the year when we really start to showcase the season with nut recipes. These handheld gems add crunch, depth, and toasty flavor to all of our cozy fall dishes. Whether you’re experimenting with hazelnuts and macadamia nuts or are sticking to the classic almonds and pecans, here’s a quick guide to using nuts with your fall recipes.
ALMONDS: One of the most common nuts, these versatile nuts can be matched with virtually any recipe.
HAZELNUTS: These delicious nuts taste a bit like a cross between almonds and macadamia nuts—nutty and mild like an almond but slightly buttery and indulgent like a macadamia.
CASHEWS: Creamy in texture and sweet in flavor, cashews are often used with stir-fries, chicken, and vanilla-inspired desserts. Keep in mind that they tend to soften and lose crunchiness as they cook.
MACADAMIA NUTS: These tropical nuts are rich, sweet, and buttery, and are often reserved as a finishing touch for gourmet dishes as they can be expensive. Excellent paired with robust greens, fish, lamb, and all things sweet.
PECANS: With a wonderful thick crunch, pecans are of the bolder nuts. They are often paired with butter (especially browned butter), caramel, coffee, and winter pies.
PINE NUTS: Often used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, these tiny tear-shaped nuts are delicious in recipes besides pesto. They have a relatively sweet fruity flavor, and toasting them transforms their soft, chewy texture to a firmer, crunchier one.
PISTACHIOS: These underutilized nuts are typically reserved for ice cream or snacking straight from the bag. They have an addictively wonderful flavor, with a sweet, grassy flavor that improves as they toast.
WALNUTS: While bitter tasting when raw, toasted walnuts have a bold, smoky nutty flavor that is often associated with whiskey or chocolate.
Cooking with Nuts
LEAFY GREENS: Chop the toasted nuts and sprinkle over braised hearty leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard. Finish off with a splash of balsamic vinegar, orange juice, or lemon juice.
SALAD: Try the classic fall salad combination: bitter leafy greens (try arugula), dried fruits (try cherries), fresh seasonal fruits (try pomegranate), fresh herbs, and chopped nuts. Drizzle with a tangy vinaigrette and top with chopped nuts.
FISH OR MEAT BREADING: Mince the toasted nuts finely and whisk together with butter, mustard, and seasonings to make a breading batter, then bake or pan-sear. Try with wild salmon, barramundi, or shrimp for seafood, or lamb, duck, or pork for seasonal meat.
FRUIT CRISP OR COBBLER: Substitute any chopped nuts for the usual almonds or walnuts in your fave crisp or cobbler topping. Also toss some different flavor add-ins into the topping mixture, like mixed ginger, chopped chocolate chips, or ground cinnamon.
ROASTED VEGETABLES: Combine seasonal vegetables (try Brussels, sweet potatoes, red onions, rutabagas, turnips, and/or pumpkin) with olive oil and seasonings, then bake until golden and soft. Toss cooked veggies with toasted nuts and finish off with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and/or balsamic vinegar to taste.
SEASONAL TART: Use any combination of toasted nuts as a substitution for pecans in any traditional pecan pie recipe—experiment with different nuts and spices, and see how different these seasonal tarts can come out.
HOLIDAY STUFFING: Add a few handfuls of chopped toasted nuts to your seasonal stuffing this season, especially any stuffing that includes dried/fresh fruits and ample herbs.
COOKIE BATTER: It’s easy enough to add nuts to any cookie batter before you bake them. Simply fold anywhere from ¼ to ¾ cup chopped toasted nuts (depending on how much dough you have) into your cookie batter just before baking.
RUSTIC PASTA:Cook off pasta noodles until just al dente, and toss with plenty of fresh olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice to taste. Finish off with chopped toasted nuts, cheese of choice, and minced herbs like parsley or rosemary.
FRESH POPCORN: Add seasoned nuts of choice to freshly popped popcorn for a wholesome snack. Go the sweet route and add in cinnamon, sugar/honey, and melted butter, or go savory and add olive oil, rosemary, and parmesan cheese.
Image: Vegan Feast Catering